"You know, Fullmetal..."
He made the slip-up not whilst in the throes of passion, but rather, sitting quite peacefully at the kitchen table, watching the slender blond cook.
The distinct sound of the spoon slipping from boneless fingers to land with a clunk back into the bowl; Alphonse turned and looked at him slowly, eyebrows raising all the way to his scalp.
"...was...was never much of a cook, not like you are," Roy finished lamely, but the damage was already done, and he knew it; Al turned back to the matters atop the stove, quietly wounded, and the older alchemist couldn't stop the instinctive thought that went through his head, That would have earned me a punch from his older brother.
He hadn't started comparing the two until recently, and he couldn't figure out why. He attempted to blame it on intrinsically aesthetical observation—two brothers, so alike in appearance yet so different in temperament—but he stared across the table at the brassy rope of Alphonse's hair—as long as, or longer, than Edward's?—and couldn't help but wonder.
The two of them were so similar in appearance that it was downright laughable; hadn't always been, but now—long blond hair, though of differing shades, comparitively small and lean in stature, though Alphonse would always be the taller of the two, same myriad topaz eyes, though Edward's always burned the brighter gold. They didn't look exactly alike, no—investigation of an old Rockbell photo album revealed to the former colonel that through some strange joke of grace, Edward tended to favor his late father, and Alphonse their mother—and yet, it was impossible to mistake the two for anything but brothers.
It was hardly any excuse for his somewhat blatant, instinctive comparisons, however.
"Alphonse," the dark-haired man said tiredly, letting out a breath and closing his eyes. "Listen—I'm sorry. I didn't mean anything by it. It's...it's..." His brow furrowed. Just what the hell was it? There was no easy way to explain it, no easy way to say, I'm sorry, really I am, but I think I have a complex about you because I spent two years of my life lusting fruitlessly after your brother, said brother whom you now nearly resemble perfectly in appearance; he groaned aloud in frustration and tore his hands through his hair. "A name. It's just a name. No matter what I say aloud, honest to God, Alphonse, I couldn't mistake you for your brother." He dredged up a smile from his face. "Your brother, at least, would have to stand on a stepstool just to kiss me on the lips."
There was silence from the direction of the stove and, feeling pathetically inadequate and immensely angry at himself, Roy sought to fill it. "I...I may not have acted like it, back then, but I really...really saw the two of you as entirely different people." His pained smile turned somewhat fond. "It was impossible to see you as anything but. The older brother, loud and blunt and hopelessly irritated; you, the younger brother, so quiet and reserved and decidingly more...mild-mannered, so to speak. Edward thought in straight lines, but you were more amenable to suggestion, willing to think outside the box, to find a safer route around rather than just plow straight through. Calmer, more even-tempered."
Roy laughed. "You were sweeter, but strong at the same time, loved animals—you're also a hopeless romantic, the same as I am... What's there not to like, really, and what's there that's like your brother? You're two strangers who just happen to come from the same gene pool." He shrugged, and stood from the table. "Please believe me when I say...when I say that, in my mind, you were always 'Alphonse'. Never anything else, least of all anything less."
...What he didn't say:
Separate weights on the same scale. Edward in my left hand, Alphonse in my right. The younger, taller; the older, smaller—silver and gold melting at different degrees, both liquid under the same flame—one, an animal lover; the other, loved by animals; the flesh and blood brother somehow colder than the armored one; the brother encased in steel warm in a way that defied anatomical convention—and they both loved books, but one preferred alchemy while the other pored over philosophy and the nature of the universe.
And Alphonse was, despite contradictions to his physical design back then, every definition of soft—a startling contrast to the infinite angles of Edward's hardness—and no, that was not an innuendo, that was not an innuendo...—
"I'm truly sorry," Mustang said aloud, feeling almost light-headed from that train of thought.
He took a step forward, but Al turned then, a smile on his face that was so laughably fake; something unfathomable in his eyes, his eyes hide so much more than Edward's ever could. "Oh, I understand," he said lightly, and closed the rest of the distance between them to pull the older man down for an almost painful kiss. An uncharacteristic aggressiveness that was just short of alarming. "I understand perfectly well... It's just a name, right?"
A delicate question, one to be phrased delicately. "Have you ever considered...a change in appearance?"
Al blinked up at Roy from his spot on the floor—stretched out languidly in a catnap, head pillowed in the dark-haired man's lap. It was one of their pasttimes, sitting on the floor together and reading, one or the other dozing off as they saw fit. It was blessedly characteristic of them—couldn't ever see myself doing it with Edward; we're too nonsensical like that.
"No, why?" The younger Elric smiled softly, bronze eyes open and friendly again, his earlier indignance and wounded pride apparently forgotten. He flicked a few strands of his ponytail thoughtfully. "Would shorter hair suit me, you think?"
"No, it's—" Just what the hell was it? Roy closed his mouth, ground his teeth together for a minute or so, then spoke again. "It's...presentimentary. It feels like a bad omen, to have you waltz around Amestris dressed like your de—missing—older brother."
He tried to remember, then, just when he had started to notice Alphonse in that way. He remembered the brief letter sent to him from Hughes' old assistant, Scieska—the letter was crisp and professionally to the point, and he was dumbfounded that both she and the Rockbell girl could still hold a grudge against him—and the trip he had taken out to Rizenbul personally... No, it hadn't been then. Alphonse had been polite and shy, enigmatically endearing and lacking in certain memories; Roy had left then, feeling absurdly out of place, and gone back to the city.
He hadn't seen Alphonse until a year and a half later, wandering aimlessly around the train station and looking hopelessly lost. He had nearly called the boy "Edward" then, too, especially when the younger Elric had recognized his face in the crowd and smiled that achingly familiar cocky grin, albeit a bit anxious. Red duster coat, black jacket, leather pants, all the way down to the scuffed boots...and Roy had wondered then, delerious for a moment, just who the hell had decided it was time to bring Edward Elric back to life.
...Sadly, it had probably been around then that he had fallen for the blond. A strange thought popped into his mind: It would've been easier if Alphonse was still made of that metal; I wouldn't have had to choose, and he hated himself for it. Nothing was worth that; no amount of warped mentality or misplaced affection on his part should make him wish that upon the poor boy again, and he felt bile rise in his throat at his own perversity.
"Well..." Al seemed to think about it, idly jiggling his feet against the floor. "...He's my inspiration, after all." His eyes closed in an embarrassed grin. "I feel closer to him like this, that's all. As though I could remember him, remember anything, by feeling this fabric under my fingertips, or smell his scent in these coatsleeves..." His smile quickly turned into a sigh, and he spoke next in a small voice, "...I miss him."
"Alphonse..." Roy ran his fingers through that soft hair, and decided that maybe, just maybe, he wouldn't make the boy cut it short, after all.
What he didn't say:
...I do, too.
Edward in my left hand, Alphonse in my right. One cuts their hair short(he could never decide which one, and in his mind, it oftentime varied), the other wears it unbound. A face against my chest, a head on my shoulder; all ardor and affection. Mirrored smiles—the first is arrogant and irrevocably smug, the second, fluttering and bashful and equally as pleased—and the sweat rolls down my face like tears.
In an apologetically amused fashion, Roy took the bottom—Alphonse was a whirling flash of blazing bronze and irrepressible excitement above him. It was shocking, really, what sex did to that quietly controlled entrapment of a boy; he laughed and licked and loved, then spun on his heel and danced in the dungeons with the devils of the night.
It was never gentle, and it was, stupidly—damnably—yet another thing that made him think achingly of Edward.
He couldn't say which one he loved more—the Elric whom he had longed to meet, or the Elric he had lost because of it. To pick one would be akin to choosing between the night and the day—with one there would be no time, and with the other, time would come to a frightening standstill. He was hopelessly unsatisfied—some piece of his puzzle not completed, some part of his treasure half gone—and it was sick, sick and wrong. He made love to one brother then loved the other in the loving's wake.
And yet he couldn't help himself—oh, fire was a beautiful instrument with which to temper steel, and both the Elric brothers were steel, whether they cared to admit it or not—
Pivot, pivot, do-si-do—
And there really is no substitute for this... Blessed white feeling—logic cartwheels out the canopy bed and I land on easy street; I'm already running before I hit the ground, and there's absolutely no reason for me to stop. I can just shut my eyes and go for the proverbial gold. There are no "brothers", only the word "Elric".
A word then, and one Roy didn't want to believe. He had to have misheard. It was such a strange word to say, and yet not strange at all; downright fitting, when one thought about it, if one blond really was like the other. He wouldn't—couldn't! Didn't? He called me...
Climax came, as powerful as it always did, and there was that word again. Distasteful, and yet, he couldn't help but feel that somehow, he had brought it upon himself. His hidden lust for gold would bring him to ruin, yet his next thought was entirely out of his control:
...Well. It was certainly a revenge worthy of Edward, at least. His brother should be proud.
And then Roy shut the thought out, arched his back, and let lust win.
"You know, Father..."
Mustang stiffened and attempted to smooth the tic out of his eyebrow. "All right, you're angry. I offended you; I understand your point, Alphonse, and I'm sorry. I hardly think such an acerbic rebuke was necessary, that's all."
His brain refused to acknowledge the kinkier aspects of being called 'Father' in the middle of sex. He doubly refused to acknowledge the image of Edward doing the same.
...Why were his prerogatives so messed up?
Al snuggled closer to him, purring like a cat, and smiled contently, looking almost frightening by sporting a blissfully barbed-wire expression on his face. "You mean you wouldn't be thrilled to be my father? You're around the right age for it—a little too young, but we could make it work."
An unashamed nod. "Brother and I. He might've complained about you all the time, but I think he was secretly glad for all the, hmmm, parental guidance you gave us. And I also think he was secretly glad that you were one of the few people in his life who didn't go after his ass...ets."
Tic. "Ah. I see."
A wistful sigh. "A pity you're so dark-haired, then we could have passed off as one big happy family. Since Brother and I just happen to look so much alike..."
Tic. But Roy could feel the shake of Al's shoulders against his side, and he knew that sometime, during the course of their conversation, the boy's malicious smile had already crumpled up into a frown. "Well, you know the old adage: looks aren't everything, Alphonse."
How fittingly ironic. He had managed to sum up everything he had been trying these past arduous months to say by hardly trying at all. A simple cliche had just solved one of his biggest problems.
Al looked up at him warily—instrinsic cautiousness battling against bland sincerity—and nodded once, almost inperceptibly. "Right," was all he said at first, then pursed his lips in thought. "Roy... When I do find my brother again...what will you do with him?"
"Do with him?" the older alchemist repeated, eyebrows raising in slow increments as his brain tried to catch up to the direction his sex drive had taken.
Edward nestled underneath my left arm, Alphonse buried under my right. One tells me, "I love you," while the other says, "Let me sleep."
"Yeah..." Al seemed not to have noticed his lapse in thought, instead preoccupied with his own misgivings. "I'm...not sure what I'd do. It's... It's been a long time since he's seen me—the real me—so..." A pained smile. "I'm afraid he won't even know who I am... The same way you don't."
And Roy didn't know what to say to that. He tried to tell himself that his actions spoke louder than his words—he did love Alphonse, dammit, and it should have made him ridiculously happy because the boy actually wanted to be loved in return!—but neither his words nor his actions could betray that treacherous morbidity of his memories known as thought.
He tried another cliche instead: "Well, just be yourself." His smile came agonizingly easy. "Be the self that your brother and I both love."
"Hmmm..." It didn't seem to convince Alphonse moreso than distract him, but Roy took what he could get and pulled the boy closer to him in the hopes that they could sleep and slip away.
The younger Elric let himself be pulled, closing his eyes and unwrinkling his brow, getting ready to nod off. He opened his mouth: "...G'night, Father."
A giggle. "What? It's just a name, right?"
A sigh. "...Right."